Blog #5

I decided to respond to the previous reading’s about Sarah Rider after Blog #6 intentionally. I struggled with this reading and, as a teacher, I am still unsure how I feel about how Sarah handled the situation with William, the white separatist, in her writing workshop classroom. I think that it would be dangerous to assume that her approach is applicable to all classroom environments. There are a few qualifying points here – the class was a college class – with college students. Why does that matter? Are students really developmentally much farther along in freshman year of college than they are in senior year of high school? My experience this year as a GTA is that it isn’t so much that they are more mature, tolerant, global, and wise – it’s that they type of ego and ethno-centrism that dominates the culture of high school isn’t endorsed or valued in college. Maybe it’s that it’s a bigger pond and students feel less secure about whether or not these are values that everyone shares; whereas in high school, conformity, narrow-mindedness and intolerance is a form of status. I’m not saying I like it, folks – but these are my observations over the past 14 years.

 

So would I allow white separatist beliefs to be discussed in my high school English classroom? It depends. every class is different in maturity, tolerance and ability to discuss and critically evaluate. Given this week’s article about tolerating intolerance – I am conflicted. While Sarah expressed her dismay and discomfort and disagreeance with William’s views in her article, did she express it to the class? And in not expressing it, was there anyone in there who felt that she endorsed it? William himself said that he was mad at her for not agreeing with him, implying that by allowing him to bring his beliefs into her classroom, she perhaps did not disagree with him.

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Blog #6

Tolerating Intolerance – Oddly, and perhaps fortuitously, a fellow GTA asked my advice about how to approach a student who is writing an argumentative paper that basically argues for, well, intolerance. When I read Kate’s article, I passed it on immediately to my colleague. The argument presented in the article is one that I am certainly familiar with – I’ve had many students, in my conservative community where I teach, make the same fallacious argument and have never felt comfortable pointing out the logical fallacies. Although, I am sure that the students in the classroom who have experienced prejudice, intolerance, bigotry and marginalizing behaviors were more uncomfortable than me. It’s not that I wasn’t brave enough to confront the logic and, worse yet, insidiously destructive nature of the flawed argument, it’s that I couldn’t articulate in the moment exactly what was fallacious and destructive about it while negotiating my role as a teacher – one who worked very hard not to shut students down.

And yet, what about those who felt shut down, left out, threatened and demeaned by the argument itself? I de-prioritized their feelings for the feelings of the ones who felt emboldened to voice their intolerance. Isn’t this the way the Trump campaign is running? The followers feel emboldened by a leader who exemplifies intolerance to spew hatred and violence and ignorance. In a sense, I feel like by not addressing the intolerant words, I, too emboldened them. The author defines this as:

“Refusing to tolerate bigotry, however, is not a limitation of rights but a consequence of actions.  Bigotry is a choice, a behavior, a deliberate decision to impose your prerogatives on others without their consent.”

“Tolerating intolerance is not, in fact, tolerance.  It is merely the passive-aggressive enabling of intolerance.”

I will use the article in my classroom when I return to teaching. I look forward to the discussion.

While my article was about cultivating civil and community literacies as a means of engaging young people to participate in their communities, it still resonated with me in terms of what we do with Speak Out.

“The literacy practices in our communities are far more broad-based than what most of our students typically encounter in schools, and young people have varying levels of access to developing the social literacy practices that mark adults as active members of those communities.”

In particular, the paragraphs about mentoring youth, providing a safe space and honoring their literacies touched a familiar spot in my heart that I hadn’t quite identified before. These are articulated goals that I felt intuitively, but lacked the words to express.

 

Blog #4 Research Update

So my research has hit a wall. My project is to propose starting a Speak Out type writing workshop at the Southwest Riverside Detention Center in Murrieta, California upon my return to California this summer. I have found an organization that I believed might be an ally in helping establish these writing workshops. Upon Tobi’s advice, I emailed detention Center contact whom I thought would be able to provide some answers as to how to go about submitting this proposal and whether or not this type of workshop as described would be allowed at all, and if not, what changes needed to be made. I also emailed the ally. I received no response from either. So I am unsure as to whether I should actually start drafting a grant proposal or if I should shift my project to something else. I considered creating a sort of annotated bibliography of all the wonderful writing workshop books and materials we have in the office for future interns and volunteers to peruse. The annotated bibliography would contain commentary from other interns and volunteers as to what has worked well and link to the lesson plans in the archive.

On the other hand, I could go forward with writing the grant proposal and persevere with pursuing the detention center in person when I return to California this summer. Or perhaps I could write it in such a way that it could be used with other organizations, like perhaps a youth halfway house, rehabilitation center or even a Boys and Girls Club.

Blog #3

Blog #3

Looking at Anderson, Global street papers and Homeless [counter]publics,” consider some of the advantages and limitations presented. What do you make of these? That is, do you agree with the author in terms of the advantages and drawbacks to street papers as a [counter]public discourse? Too, consider how our work with SpeakOut and the CLC more broadly fits into this genre of community publishing. While SpeakOut publications indeed travel across Colorado as well as the U.S., what potential limitations or oversights do you see to/in our work? More specifically, might our publications or work actually inhibit or “restrict” the potential for a meaningful counterpublic discourse? Utilize Anderson’s organizing concepts of delivery, technique, and audience to explain.

I do agree with the author in terms of the advantages and disadvantages to street papers as counter-public discourse. Are people who  buy such papers reading them? Or are they buying them as a way to legitimize giving homeless people money – perhaps even assuaging their own guilt or discomfort in handing a homeless person money. Is it a way for them to do this without feeling shame or pity for the recipient, perhaps even believing that this is more dignified? All of these are reasonable motives and yet they are not motives for the buyer of the paper to actually read the paper. If the buyer does read the paper, with what lens are they reading the content and does that lens color their perception of the literacy contained therein?

I wonder to about how our work fits into this genre of community publishing. I routinely leave Speak Out journals on the benches of Library Park where the homeless people hang out by day, sleep by night. Inevitably, the journals are gone the next day as I walk through the park on my way to school. There are other items abandoned, discarded or trashed that have remained throughout the park for days and days, so I know it their disappearance is not into a janitor’s trash can. With what lens do the homeless people read our journals vs. the lens that a passerby reads it? I think the limitations inherent in what we do is that many of the writers who leave before publication are unlikely to access a copy – or request one and as far as I know we have no means with which to obtain address information to send them one? Our mode of delivery renders meaningful discourse a moot point, given that we distribute the books and do not know who our audience (outside of the sites of the workshops) is, what they think, how they are reading the work within the journal. So why not use the journals in classes? Or book clubs? This is how we might engage in meaningful discourse.

Blog #2 Project Update

Project update:

My project is to write a grant requesting funding to start a “SpeakOut” type series of writing workshops at Southwest Riverside County Juvenile Detention Center in Murrieta, California. Murrieta is the town just north of Temecula, where I teach high school. What inspired me to do this was an incident a few years ago in which 9 out of 14 of my students in an academic skills class were taken to SWRCJDC after an undercover drug sting at my high school. These were disenfranchised students who were making great progress in my class and had renewed hope of graduating. I approached SWRCDC requesting access to them to continue the tutoring we had started 5 months previous and was shut down with disdain. Specifically, I was told that “these kids had committed serious crimes and were facing serious consequences”. They were busted for selling marijuana. I wasn’t asking to take them to Disneyland; I wanted to provide tutoring for whatever school services SWRCDC provided, knowing from experience that these students needed help succeeding in school. One student watched his brother knifed and killed in a gang dispute at a party on his 13th birthday. That was the year he started failing all his classes in school.

While I knew that these kids would receive schooling per the law, I doubted they would receive any assistance. This has bothered me ever since.

When I became involved with SpeakOut and the CLC, I knew that this is what I wanted to do to provide the young people with a non-academic outlet in which they could explore reading, writing, drawing, sharing and experience publication, which might provide them with a confidence that school did not.

Given the reception I received, I assumed that there wasn’t any type of program already in existence there and my research confirmed this. While I found that there are now opportunities for volunteers to provide assistance to the youth to help them study for the GED, , I did not find any programs that provide opportunities to read and write in a non-traditional manner.  My research did, however, uncover a potential ally. California Welfare and Institution Code mandates that each county have a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission (JJDPC) that consists of seven to fifteen members who serve up to two, four-year terms, including two youth, 18-21 years of age, Commissioner positions. All members are community volunteers, private citizens of the United States and residents of Riverside County.

The mission of the JJDPC is:

[…] to inquire into the administration of juvenile court law within Riverside County, to assure the highest standards of care and services for the youth within the juvenile justice system, and to engage in activities designed to prevent juvenile delinquency by coordinating on a countywide basis with community agencies. The JJDPC is dedicated to the promotion of an effective juvenile justice system operated in an environment of credibility, dignity, fairness and respect for the youth of Riverside County.

This commission may be a good ally in establishing a writing workshop within the detention center, as they are the liaison that allows community programs and community volunteers to work with the youth within the system. It’s my intent to contact them first to determine how to proceed in requesting a writing workshop from the detention center itself.

My preliminary research into funding opportunities revealed a variety of grants that are aimed at providing funding for literacy programs and several that are aimed in particular at funding literacy programs for at risk youth. When I conducted a search for literacy grants on California.grantwatch.com, it returned 56 literacy grants. I need to do further research into costs, which I can start by looking at the grants that the CLC has received.

I also contact Barbara Lane, a colleague at the Riverside County Office of Education with whom I’ve worked in the past to inquire as to what the county provides to the youth in Juvenile Hall and whether or not the RCOE might also be an ally in helping me persuade the detention center to allow writing workshops. Ironically, she is the teacher for “court school” and was familiar with some of the students I lost in the drug sweep a couple years ago. She confirmed that there is no such program already there and that since she is well established with the administration at the detention center, she committed to advocating for a writing workshop as well as advocating to the students.

 

 

Blog #1

I do see trauma entering into the writing at my site. Actually, I see it manifest itself in more than the writing; the writers are fairly inconsistent in their mood and emotional responses to the workshop and, when asked if they are okay, respond that they are experiencing an emotional downturn due to a trauma. How it manifests itself in writing seems to be of a cathartic nature. From what I have read at my two sites, which involve at-risk youth, the writers often “outpour” feelings of intense sadness, regret and anger over a past experience or relationship. This same outpouring, depending on where the writer is in the process of healing, also manifests in intense feelings about their need to move forward with their lives in productive, healthy ways, leaving the chaos of their pasts behind. Responding to their writing is always a struggle for me, and here is where I tap into Horsman’s article. I’m not a therapist and I have no training in responding to trauma, but I am deeply compassionate and driven by a need to heal. I often want to take these young people in my arms and tell them it’s okay; it’s going to be okay, that they are loved and worth loving. Obviously, this is inappropriate, so how do I translate that into responding to their writing instead? And should I? And how do I validate them as writers and human beings, or does validating them as writers also validate them as human beings? I’m very confused about this, and feel that I am operating in a vacuum of sorts that prevents me from understanding whether I have tried, or erred. In my classroom, I can discern whether or not my feedback is useful, reassuring, helping – even my verbal, emotional responses to students. But at Speak Out, I don’t know if my responses are helpful or not.

I think the idea of goal setting resonated with me as someone who understands that writers write for a variety of purposes. I want to incorporate a very non-academic goal setting warm-up for the first Speak-Out in which we ask writers to identify why they want to be there, what they want from the workshops and what their goals are. We can emphasize that the goals can be anything – not necessarily, “I want to improve my writing”. These goals can be that they want to use that space to explore their feelings, creativity or that they want to explore who they are as a writer – what their personal voice or style helps them best express themselves. Then we can check in periodically over the course of the workshop and ask them to reflect on whether or not their goal is the same, did it change, and why? What is their new goal? Should they re-orient towards their original? The point here wouldn’t be to “scold” them for losing sight of the original goal but to explore the skill of goal-setting itself, understand how goals may change into another that one can identify and focus on instead of feeling guilt over the loss of the original goal.

Blog Post #6

I agree wholeheartedly with Nye’s assertion that narratives constructs unique worlds of their own. A narrative by definition is a story of a time, place, people, their feelings, thoughts, actions, motivations and conflicts. It is impossible for these narratives to be replicable since human experiences are unique constructs of their own – the materiality, emotional affect, cultural, historical and personal context alone constructs a unique world. But that uniqueness doesn’t separate us from humanity, it connects us as humans within that space. I do think the publications can serve to reconstitute “ourselves as part of the larger humanity” in that when we are able to tell and share our narratives, we are validating our right to do so.

Mathieu’s narrative of the homeless populations’ experiences with the street publications also affirms these ideas that narratives validate our humanity. Not only did their shared investment in social justice issues unite their narratives of social injustices but Curly says, “If you can tell your story, you can see other stories…” and William says, “The advantage of having what write published is that everyone has a chance to hear what you have to say… you’ve accomplished something” (161).